On the Uncertainties of Planning

I don’t know what it is about human nature that yearns for a sense of unattainable structure. We yearn for love, acceptance and success too, but above all, we yearn for structure.

When relationships are a bit messy or they aren’t defined, the majority of us panic. When we see high school friends show off their beautiful diamond ring on Facebook, we panic. When we haven’t heard back from a job offering, even though we are still students, we panic.

I yearn for structure through the act of planning.

I’m constantly trying to plan my future, when at the same time I hardly have the slightest clue as to what I am going to make for lunch in the next hour. I wake up every morning with a list longer than my arm of things I need to do that I have been continuously rewriting and re-adding to for over a month now.

If you asked me what I have going on this week, I would whip out my sturdy day planner and recite the next 168 hours in full detail because that’s what I do and that’s how I manage.

Like most students, I have overcommitted myself in every aspect of my life. I help run an organization on campus, I am a member of another, I hold two jobs and I am in my final semester of college, filled with capstone classes and projects. I have a hard time saying “No” to people and friends, but I genuinely love everything I do, even if it does mean I don’t eat right or sleep well.

I have done a lot of reflecting over the last four years at Central, and I have noticed a significant change in the way I plan. For starters, I am in a program that is hell on Earth for a planner – photojournalism.

Being a photojournalist means you put your subject’s schedule ahead of your own. There are numerous times that I will have my day or my week planned and then in a matter of minutes everything changes. I allow myself an hour and a half for an interview that could end up taking three hours depending on my subject.

In this field, adaptability is of the utmost importance. I’ve learned to adapt, and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore when my schedule gets tossed out the window because I know it’s just short term; these stories are important, these people are important and I would rather spend my day running around town taking photographs and interviewing people than sitting at home watching reruns of “The Office.”

But now what? I’m graduating in May.

I have started applying for internships but come August I have no plan. I am laughing as I type this because for the past four years, I have planned every semester a year in advance. I have looked through my Undergraduate Bulletin so much that I could recite the table of contents by memory. I sought structure in every aspect of my life because I couldn’t see a future when I wasn’t able to understand my present.

Structure became my friend quickly and quietly, turning me into an anxious and empty hole when my support beams buckled under the pressure of an earthquake most people call life; I call it Emily.

I created a mindset and false idea that I needed to be perfect. I needed to graduate in exactly four years, and I needed to have a job lined up right after college because that was the plan. It was always the plan.

But here’s the thing: If you’re reading this as a freshman or as someone who is just as scared for life after college as I am, I promise it will all work out just fine. In 10 years, we’re going to look back as this exact moment and laugh. We’ll laugh because we’re going to look at those last 10 years and realize they were some of the best years of our lives.

You don’t need structure to make a future for yourself. I always attributed structure to success. I am successful because I am passionate. I am successful because I am following my dreams instead of following a monetary promise. I don’t have a plan for the future, let alone the next year, and you know what? That is OK.

What I do have is a passion to tell stories and to travel the world.

I seek structure in the stories I tell and the people I meet, not what’s written in my day planner.